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Other Names:
Aortic Regurgitation
Aortic Insufficiency

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Definition

Aortic insufficiency is a condition of the heart valve in which the aortic valve of the heart weakens, preventing the valve from closing tightly. This leads to backward flow of blood from the aorta into the left ventricle.

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Causes

Aortic insufficiency can result from any condition that weakens the aortic valve like rheumatic fever, congenital valvular abnormalities, endocarditis, high blood pressure, Marfan's syndrome, aortic dissection (a tear in the lining of the aorta), ankylosing spondylitis, Reiter's syndrome and syphilis.

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Incidence

About five in every 10,000 people have this disorder in the United States.

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Symptoms

  • Uneasy feeling due to marked palpitations
  • Irregular, rapid, racing or pounding pulse
  • Fainting and weakness with activity
  • Shortness of breath with activity or when lying down
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain under the sternum. The pain may be crushing, squeezing, pressure like, or a feeling of tightness. The pain may increase with exercise and relieved with rest

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Physical Examination

  • On listening to the chest with a stethoscope a heart murmur can be detected.
  • Examination of the chest by hand may show very forceful beating of the heart.
  • The diastolic blood pressure may be low.

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Treatment

  • If the disease is asymptomatic or if symptoms are mild, the patient may may only require observation.
  • However, if the symptoms are severe, hospitalization may be necessary.
  • Medications such as diuretics (water pills) or digoxin may be used to stabilize the condition even in people with mild symptoms to prevent the symptoms from worsening.
  • Restriction of moderate activity may be recommended.
  • Replacement of the aortic valve surgically corrects aortic insufficiency.

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Prognosis

Aortic insufficiency can be completely cured with surgical replacement of the aortic valve. The symptoms can be completely relieved. However, in the presence of severe heart failure, other complications like left-sided heart failure, pulmonary edema or endocarditis may develop

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Complications

  • Endocarditis
  • Congestive Heart Failure due to inability of the heart to pump sufficient blood to meet your body's needs.

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Prevention

  • Streptococcal infection of the throat should be treated promptly to prevent rheumatic fever, which can cause aortic stenosis.
  • Any dental work like cleaning or any invasive procedure can introduce bacteria into the bloodstream. This bacteria can infect a weakened valve causing endocarditis.

Follow your physicians treatment recommendations for conditions that may cause valve disease. Notify your physician if there is a family history of congenital heart diseases.

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Aortic Insufficiency